Fewer girls than boys consider themselves talented

Girls tend to have less confidence in their talent than boys - the difference is particularly pronounced in economically highly developed countries. In one country, it's the other way around.

A Pisa study shows that girls believe less in their own talents than boys of the same age. (Image: Unsplash/Bekah Allmark)

On average, 15-year-old girls believe less in their own talents than boys of the same age. This was the result of a special analysis of the 2018 international Pisa study, for which more than 500,000 students in 72 countries were surveyed. The differences are greater the higher a country's economic development status and the better the performance of the students surveyed. Clotilde Napp of the University of Paris-Dauphine and Thomas Breda of the Paris School of Economics published their Results in the journal Science Advances.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) usually conducts the Pisa studies every three years. The international comparison of schoolchildren covers the 38 OECD countries and 34 other countries. In addition to skills in mathematics, science and reading, students' attitudes are also recorded through their agreement with certain statements. In 2018, one of these statements was, "If I fail, I'm afraid I might not be talented enough." Across all respondents, 47 percent of boys and 61 percent of girls agreed with this statement.

Self confidence suffers

"The belief that they are less talented than boys can affect girls' self-confidence and lead them to protect themselves and therefore avoid challenging situations and opportunities," Napp and Breda write. They attribute the finding to a gender-specific talent stereotype: according to the study, boys are considered more talented than girls in many areas, especially math. Previous studies found that parents consider their male offspring to be more talented and that most girls and boys portray an adult male when asked to draw an intelligent person.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the Pisa study where girls believe more strongly in their own talents than boys. For all the others, it was the other way around. In the predominantly highly developed OECD countries, the difference between the sexes on this issue is more pronounced than in the other countries - although equality between women and men is also more strongly realized there. The authors of the study attribute this paradoxical result, among other things, to the fact that individualism is more firmly anchored in the more prosperous societies and that self-realization and self-expression are more important.

Girls are less competitive

Napp and Breda found a close statistical correlation with willingness to compete, as measured by the statement: "I like to work in situations involving competition with others." Here, the gender difference was nearly as pronounced as for belief in one's own talent. The same applies to self-confidence and the expectation of working in a profession in information and communications technology later in life: In all these categories, the girls scored lower than the boys.

Surprisingly for the researchers, the gender difference in talent belief, competitiveness and self-confidence was greater the higher performing the students were. Although high-achieving girls would have every reason to believe in their own talent, significantly more good students than good female students considered themselves talented. (SDA)

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